Rony Shamoun applies a litmus test of sorts when scouting out new locations for his Liquor World chain of stores in greater Las Vegas. “I want to make sure that my mother would feel comfortable walking into any of our stores,” he explains. “While some of our competitors’ stores are dingy looking and women are scared to walk into them, we take the Target approach, with well-lit stores, clean shelves, nice flooring and good customer service. We’re the Target of adult beverage retailing.”
That approach has served Shamoun, who serves as CEO and president of the growing chain, well. Liquor World Las Vegas now operates a dozen stores, all opened in less than 20 years, including four locations in and around the Strip corridor. And despite lingering effects from the pandemic and spiraling inflation impacting customers’ pocketbooks, Shamoun says same-store sales at the chain surged about 18% last year. He declines to reveal total sales revenue for the company, which employs between 110 to 120 workers.
Shamoun grew up with an exposure to beverage alcohol retailing. His parents, refugees from Iraq, settled in southern California, where his father worked in construction building out liquor and convenience stores. “I worked with him as a kid and got to see the businesses, inside and out,” he says. Shamoun opened the first Liquor World Las Vegas in 2006. That was followed by the first Strip location—close to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino—three years later. Over the course of the last 14 years, ten more stores have been added, including the recently unveiled 7,500-square-foot Lake Las Vegas/Lake Mead store. In addition to the Liquor World team of employees, Shamoun credits “the vision of my family to take us from a single store to 12 operations. My family has had a lot to do with the growth of the concept.”
Beyond Shamoun, the Liquor World team is led by general manager Michael Barbary, who oversees store operations, inventory, and staffing. Barbary, a Las Vegas native, joined the company five years ago, following stints with Walgreen’s and Total Wine & More. “Being from the area, I was quite familiar with Liquor World and the growth they were seeing,” says Barbary. “I was particularly impressed with the stores that were going up in southwest Las Vegas, which is a very desirable part of the valley.”
With stores near Las Vegas Boulevard and in outlying areas, Liquor World serves a diverse clientele, as the Strip stores attract throngs of tourists while the neighborhood shops cater to a discerning, upscale and growing population. Already a competitive market for beverage alcohol—with virtually any class of trade able to access licenses—Las Vegas was hit particularly hard early in the Covid-19 pandemic, when business and pleasure travel to the city ground to a standstill. But according to Shamoun, by late last year, tourists had returned in strong fashion, with McCarron Airport welcoming the highest number of travelers since 2019. “We’re betting on that now,” he says of improved tourism. “We’re really excited about what the future holds for tourism in Las Vegas.” In addition to the store near the MGM Grand, Liquor World boasts locations close to the Virgin Hotel & Casino, the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, and the T-Mobile Arena, about a mile and a half from Allegiant Stadium.
Stores away from the Strip, meanwhile, are situated in booming nearby locales such as Henderson, which is the second-largest city in Nevada. Barbary points to the growing number of transplants from the West Coast into the area in recent years as attractive clientele going forward. The new residents are college educated, affluent, and living in double-income households, an appealing target for Liquor World, Shamoun says.
Ranging in size from 3,000-14,000 square feet, Liquor World stores offer wide selections of spirits, wine and beer, and feature amenities including temperature-controlled fine wine spaces, tasting areas, and beer caves. Shamoun says that 10,000 square feet is the chain’s sweet spot. The Inspirada store in Henderson opened in 2010 and is the chain’s showcase, with 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 2,000-square-foot wine bar, allowing for on-premise consumption (the only site where it’s legally allowed). Called Uncorked Wine & Beer Bar, the on-premise site is often used for events and can also be rented out for private occasions. Wine offerings at Uncorked range from the 2019 Chateau Diana 707 rosé ($6 a glass) to Veuve Clicquot Champagne ($48 a 375-ml. bottle), while rotating craft beers on draft are priced at about $6 a 16-ounce pour and accompanied by a variety of canned beer at $4.
“Whenever we open a new store, we always ask ourselves how we can make the shopping experience the best one possible for our customers,” Shamoun says, noting that Liquor World partners with brands and suppliers to leverage the best shelf sets to guide customers. He points to the chain’s “360-degree approach” to merchandising, where TV messaging on end caps, in-store radio, and even billboards at some locations emphasize featured products. “Customers see it, hear it, touch it, and buy it,” Shamoun adds.
Strong Spirits Selection
Spirits lead beverage sales at Liquor World, accounting for 60% of sales, with wine and beer each comprising 15%, and miscellaneous items—such as non-alcoholic beverages and tobacco—bringing in the remaining 10%. Liquor World Las Vegas stocks about 4,000 spirits SKUs. “We have the largest selection of spirits on the Strip, and we’re very proud of that,” Barbary says. “And for our local stores, we work to stock all the latest items.”
According to Shamoun, Tequila and RTD cocktails are showing the fastest growth among spirits subcategories at the chain. “RTDs are the fastest growing not only from a dollar standpoint, but also from a vessel standpoint,” he remarks, pointing to packaging that varies from bottles to cans to multi-packs to pouches. “We’re paying close attention to the category, which is proving to be very popular with customers who like to grab a canned cocktail and walk Las Vegas Boulevard.”
Craft spirits also have a presence at the stores, Shamoun adds, pointing to local distilleries like Nevada H&C Distilling and Frey Ranch. “These distilleries are leading the way and putting Nevada on the map for spirits,” he says. The company’s Store Picks single-barrel program, meanwhile, has sold through some 75 barrels in the last two years, the retailer says, and has encompassed a variety of spirits types, including Bourbon, Pennsylvania rye, and Tequila. Top-selling spirits at Liquor World include Tito’s vodka ($28 a 1-liter), Jameson Irish whiskey ($24 a 750-ml.) and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey ($24).
Wine And Beyond
Liquor World stocks about 4,000 wine SKUs, from André Brut ($4 a 375-ml. can) to Champagne Delamotte ($1,000 a 1.5-liter). “Here in Nevada, Cab is king,” Shamoun says, adding that with the valley’s proximity to Paso Robles, “$25-and-greater Cabernets lead with our wine customers.” The 2020 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($95 a 750-ml.), for example, performs well. Top-selling wines at the chain include LaMarca Prosecco ($15), Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay ($11), and Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($16). The stores also promote Wine Discoveries, which Shamoun describes as similar to spirits Store Picks. “Our team will get together with wholesalers and suppliers to discover hidden gems, focusing on quality offerings in the $15-$20 a bottle range,” he says.
With about 2,500 beer SKUs, the Nevada retailer concentrates on “making sure we’re offering the right variety at the right price at the right store, and keeping it cold,” Shamoun says. Stores typically feature 15-20 cooler doors, with the newer stores fronting beer caves. Top sellers include Modelo Especial ($28 a 24-pack of 12-ounce cans) and Truly hard seltzer ($16 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans). Liquor World was one of the first retailers in the country to offer Hard MTN Dew last year, according to Shamoun. “We bought into it and advertised it on billboards throughout the valley,” he says. “We depleted thousands of cases fast.” More recently, demand for the hard seltzer FMBs has leveled off, he notes.
Among miscellaneous products, the chain has been emphasizing its cigar selection of late. “It’s growing, and we plan to put a lot of dollars toward it,” Barbary says of the category. A typical store features between 40 and 80 rotating cigars, including offerings from Arturo Fuente and Padrón. “We see cigars as an add-on sale for spirits customers,” he notes. “Our team is trained to suggest spirits that complement a cigar, whether it’s a Bourbon, rum, or agave spirit.”
Liquor World promotes its stores via billboards—with 42 digital screens around the valley—and social media. Its Liquor World Rewards customer loyalty program and mobile app also help drive traffic. In addition, store events—such as the recent Villa One Tequila bottle signing with singer Nick Jonas—are crowd pleasers, as well as tasting dinners arranged in partnership with local independent restaurants. Indeed, Shamoun says the chain takes the role it plays in the community seriously and supports charities that aid children, such as the Down Syndrome Assoc. of Southern Nevada and the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
Looking ahead, Shamoun doesn’t rule out additional locations. “We’ll never allow an A+ site to go,” he says. “If we believe it will generate revenue, we’ll take a look at it.” But with the Liquor World portfolio of stores now at an even dozen, he says the company’s focus is on “getting back to basics, making sure our shelves are well stocked and clean, and our customer service is up to par.” Just the way his mother likes it.